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Thursday, Dec 28, 2006

Ufc 66 Preview

UFC 66 Preview
By Steven Marrocco

Undercard Bouts:

Anthony Perosh vs. Christian Wellisch

Perosh is coming off a loss against heavyweight contender Jeff Monson in his UFC debut in July, He is a BJJ black belt under Carlos Machado, and as such, favors the ground in MMA competition. Most of his wins have come by submission in the Spartan Reality Fight promotion in Australia, where he runs a school with veteran Elvis Sinosec.

Wellisch is also coming off a loss in his UFC debut, where he fought well against Cheik Kongo before eating a huge knee that stopped the fight quickly. Based out of the American Kickboxing Academy, Wellisch has displayed a wider skill set in competition, stopping his opponents by submission as well as strikes.

Both competitors will be hungry to get in the winning column in the UFC, so this will undoubtedly be a spirited fight. If Wellisch is able to connect as Monson did, it could be a short night for Perosh. However, Perosh will most likely get an early takedown, where he will gun for a submission victory. If Wellisch has not prepared himself adequately on the ground, or slacked in his cardio, he will be submitted. Wellisch’s best hope is to exploit Perosh’s weakness on his feet in the initial minutes of the bout or after a restart from the ground.

Yushin Okami vs. Rory Singer

Okami is a tough veteran of the international fight game, having fought for Pancrase, Pride, and K-1. He was the beneficiary of a win over Anderson Silva in Rumble on the Rock when an errant upkick from Silva knocked him out in the opening round. Since then, he has beaten his last two opponents in the UFC, recently dominating TUF 3 contestant Kalib Starnes in a 3rd round stoppage victory.

Rory Singer has also had success in his initial UFC fights, stopping TUF 3 finalist Josh Haynes in October’s UFC Fight Night and Brit Ross Pointon at the TUF 3 finale. With the exception of a single KO victory at King of the Cage, Singer is a submission artist through and through.

This is Singer’s toughest challenge yet, as Okami has proven skills on the ground and has shown himself to be aggressive when standing as well. Singer could capitalize on Okami’s aggression by catching him in an early submission from the bottom, but will suffer a disadvantage if the bout stays on its feet. Most likely, we will see a chess match on the ground.

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Carmello Marrero

After recovering from family crisis in late 2005 and a last minute withdrawal at UFC 63, Gonzaga rebounded with a TKO victory over Fabiano Scherner at UFC 60. Prior to joining the UFC, Gonzaga was a successful BJJ competitor as a black belt under Wander Braga. His only loss in MMA came at the hands of ground wiz Fabricio Werdum in an early Jungle Fight bout.

Marrero is undefeated in his six professional fights, having recently defeated Cheick Kongo by split decision at UFC 64, where he was brought in on three weeks notice. Marrero is primarily a wrestler/ground and pound artist, and has a great ability to control his opponents on the ground.

With ample time to prepare, we should see a more well rounded Marrero against the also relatively new Gonzaga. After his victory against Kongo, Marrero expressed his confidence in his stand up abilities and vowed to use them in his upcoming fight. Gonzaga’s bread and butter is also on the ground, but has displayed decent standup abilities as well. Look for the two to trade in the opening rounds, with either one shooting as one comes out on the losing side of the exchanges. From there, we could see a protracted ground battle with a decision.

Tony DeSouza vs. Thiago Alves

DeSouza is a longtime veteran of the MMA world, having fought for the UFC in the early 2000’s. After a victory in the first WFA, DeSouza took a three-year break from MMA, returning to competition in 2004. He is primarily a submission artist, training with BJ Penn. In his return to the UFC, he defeated Dustin Hazelett by kimura at Fight Night 7.

Thiago Alves may be a younger version of Tony DeSouza, with the added capability of striking. Having racked up most of his UFC experience in the recent year, Alves is coming off an impressive decision victory over the always tough John Alessio on the same card as DeSouza. However, he has dropped two fights to two tough UFC welterweights, the first being Spencer Fisher, followed by Jon Fitch.

DeSouza’s comfort on the ground will most likely take the fight there, with Thiago trying to ward off his submission attempts. If Alves is able to use his advantage in speed to inflict damage early, he could take the victory.

Maincard Bouts:

Eric Schafer vs. Michael Bisping

TUF 3 winner Bisping is making his long awaited UFC pay per view debut, having withdrawn from his last scheduled fight due to visa issues. An undefeated 11-0, Bisping tore through the competition in the reality show and dismantled Team Quest fighter Josh Haynes to take the show. Training out of the tough Wolfslair Gym in the UK, Bisping is an exciting striker with ground skills to match.

Eric Schafer is a submission artist who handily dispatched season two TUF’er Rob Macdonald with a slick transition into an arm triangle choke that rendered him unconscious.

It will be interesting to see how the layoff has affected Bisping, and should any ring rust appear, Schafer’s best chance to capitalize is on the ground. An early takedown could put Bisping on the defensive early and take valuable gas out of the Brit’s tank, taking the sting out of his crisp striking. However, should Bisping come ready, his striking will most likely overwhelm Schafer in the first.

Jason MacDonald vs. Chris Leben

Canadian vet MacDonald shocked many newcomers to the sport by easily submitting TUF season 3 favorite Ed Herman, tapping him out with a textbook triangle choke. The crafty fighter is on a five-fight win streak, having been a regular in the Extreme Cage Combat and Mixed Fighting Championships. Had he not been snatched up by the UFC, we may very well have seen him in Bodogfight, having fought on the majority of their cards.

Chris Leben is a member of Team Quest and an TUF season 1 alum. After suffering his first loss in two years against current UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva, Leben rebounded with a KO victory against Jorge Santiago at UFC Fight Night 6, dropping the Brazilian fighter with a looping hook. Noticeably quieter since his humbling, Leven has refocused himself to take revenge for his fellow Team Quest fighter’s loss.

It is well known that Leben loves to throw leather and will try to punch his way to a KO victory. MacDonald has shown tremendous technique and will most likely try to bait Leben into making an obvious mistake as he did with Herman. If Leben is able to stay patient and pressure MacDonald on the feet, he could wear down the Canadian later in the bout.

Andre Arlovski vs. Marcio Cruz

It’s been a tough road for the former UFC heavyweight champ recently, losing two back- to-back fights against current champ Tim Sylvia. In their second bout, Arlovski injured his knee and rode out the remainder of the fight with lazy jabs that dragged the bout. Until recently, Arlovski was the poster child for a well-rounded heavyweight, having submitted Sylvia in their first meeting and knocked Paul Buentello senseless at UFC 55. With no foreseeable title shot, Arlovski finds himself in journeyman territory, knocking off contenders to the heavyweight throne until Sylvia is unseated.

Marcio Cruz came from a highly regarded BJJ background, having won championships in both the Mundials and Abu Dabi. Cruz started strong in the UFC, upsetting former heavyweight champ Frank Mir by TKO stoppage, but recently lost a controversial decision to heavyweight contender Jeff Monson.

Both fighters are looking to shake off their current demons, having recently given disappointing performances in their careers. However, the glaring difference in their respective abilities comes in striking. Arlovski’s kickboxing skills far outweigh Cruz’s, so much so that any time spent on the feet is dangerous for the ADCC champ. If Cruz is able to take the fight to the ground, the bout will be far more competitive. Even then, if Cruz looks to take advantage from the bottom position, as many BJJ converts do, he will find himself being punished by Arlovski. Look for Arlovski to end the fight on its feet relatively early on.

Keith Jardine vs. Forrest Griffin

Jardine fights out of Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was scheduled to fight Mike Nickels at UFC 64, but Nickels withdrew last minute due to a back injury. Fortunately, UFC brass decided to up the stakes for the former bounty hunter, giving him TUF season 1 winner Forrest Griffin. After dropping a controversial decision loss to Stephan Bonnar (which most likely would have put him across from Griffin back in August), Jardine rebounded with a decision victory over Wilson Gouveia at the TUF 3 finale.

As one of the UFC’s breakout stars, Griffin is a brawler who’s technique has grown by leaps and bounds since the conclusion of the reality show. His striking performance against Stephan Bonnar had the look of a professional boxer, using footwork extremely well and throwing crisp combinations of punches that outclassed his opponent. It could be argued that like Jardine, he has never lost in the UFC, having been at the losing end of a decision many disagreed with.

With their respective histories, it seems UFC matchmaker Joe Silva saw an opportunity to line up a contender to the light-heavyweight crown in the relatively thin division. In the past year, both fighters have gained respect in the MMA community, and this bout should showcase their evolution as fighters. Griffith has shown the ability to take punishment and smile, and should be content to stand and slug with Jardine. If Jardine attacks Griffin’s legs as he did with Bonnar, Griffin could be worn down as the fight progresses. Either way, this bout looks to be extremely competitive.

Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz

In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, Liddell is the UFC Light-Heavyweight champion and the biggest name in the UFC. As a true company man, Liddell has beaten most of the names in the light-heavyweight world, and will no doubt take a place at the UFC Hall of Fame when his career comes to a close.

Ortiz is the former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion, having held the belt for three years at the start of the millennium, where his ground and pound dominated the game. Having won a controversial decision against Forrest Griffin, and elbowed Ken Shamrock into oblivion twice, Ortiz finds himself in title contention again against his old training partner.

Whether Ortiz has sharpened his boxing skills to the level of Liddell is the serious question. Liddell has accurately read the situation, stating that if Ortiz is to achieve the ultimate goal of taking him down, he will have to cross into striking range first. That puts Ortiz in the unenviable position of trading strikes with one of the most devastating strikers in the history of MMA. Should Ortiz manage to take Liddell down, the question becomes whether he can keep Liddell down for long enough to do what he does best. If Ortiz is able to make Liddell work hard on the ground for a couple rounds, the bout could be more competitive. However, if Liddell is able to do what he does best, stuffing takedowns and looking to fire his powerful right, the result could be the same as their first meeting.

posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm
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